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The greatest advice I have for budding triathletes (and heck, even seasoned ones who don’t do this sport for a living) is to have or maintain a sense of humor. Triathlon is a serious sport for many, but let’s be real for a minute. We jump in oftentimes excruciatingly cold water, then get on a bike (soaking wet) and then run to a finish line. Jesting not about the professional athletes, can we discuss for a second just how funny that is? Especially if we have a day job and are doing this for fun? “But, no!” someone will undoubtedly say, “This is serious! I have been doing this sport for 35 years and I am a serious athlete!” OK, fine, I get it. But I hate to break it to you—you are a serious athlete who is doing funny things.
I am not making light of our great sport. Rather, I am reminding the participants of this great sport just to remember where we started—and have a sense of humor, a twinkling in the eyes about it.
At my first triathlon in 2010, I came in from the bike into transition, and I was elated because I hadn’t crashed my bike or died. As I rounded the corner to transition, I saw him—the volunteer waving his arms wildly and screaming, Stop here! Stop here!
Oh my gosh, I thought, he means stop here and right now?! I was fairly new to clipless pedals and hadn’t quite learned that you can adjust the tightness of the clips, so I was sort of like a velodrome rider—I was attached to my bike. I forgot about that small detail. And I knew, in that moment of “stop here,” that I was going to stop, right there, on my face. I teetered, cursed, toppled and SMACK! Hit the pavement.
I immediately jumped up like it never happened, and proceeded to finish my first triathlon with the gusto and joy that only a very first triathlon can bring.
Sure, I felt like, “You stupid woman!” when I felt down in front of a crowd of people. At the same time, I also felt that I was on the road to something so brave. After all, she who falls down in front of people wearing Spandex and a helmet is really all sorts of brave and wonderful. At a minimum, it was sort of funny—and I was able to step back and recognize that.
As my triathlon journey continued, the hilarity only grew: trying on a wetsuit for the first time, countless humiliating wardrobe malfunctions, farting when running, Porta-Potty incidents, not-quite-making-it-to-the-Porta-Potty incidents, race photos and more. I understand that while I sometimes may look like a fool, I truly “pity the fool” who can’t take a look at our sport and see the pure silly, joy and exhilaration that arises from participation. If we aren’t making a living from this great sport, then why not take a moment to step back and see the silly that can (and should) be a part of our training and racing? Sometimes, we might be surprised how good it feels to be funny.
Meredith Atwood is a wife, mom, attorney, Ironman, coach and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She lives in Atlanta and blogs at SwimBikeMom.com. Find “Beginner’s Luck” every Monday on Triathlete.com.